Range Rover VS Audi SQ7
- New tech is cool
- Supreme road feeling
- Luxurious interior
- Engine power so-so
- Cost of options
- Exhaust sound actuator
- Couldn’t match claimed economy
- Warranty off the pace
Range Rover. Straight away, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Despite a growing model line-up that now includes the Evoque, Velar and the Range Rover Sport, just about everyone on Earth pictures the brand's big bruiser whenever they hear the name.
A true motoring icon, it might have started life as a posh farmer's tool, but it is now a fixture on suburban driveways everywhere. Big and bold, it's now far more stylish than the utilitarian original, yet still manages to be super-impressive off-road. I know this because I once drove one up a river. Not across, but up. Against the current, in water almost a metre deep.
For 2018, the Range Rover's interior has scored an upgrade and, as ever, a minor tweak in the specifications. But it's still a car that has few genuine rivals.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Australians can’t get enough of big, burly, luxurious SUVs. Since the Audi SQ7 arrived here in late 2016, a laundry list of high-end, high-performance family trucksters have been refreshed, renewed, or revealed, pushing competition at the top end of the market towards boiling point.
So, after just 18 months in market, how does this brutally quick, seven-seat mothership stand up to a swag of compelling key competitors chasing upper-luxury performance SUV supremacy?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
The Range Rover is a car everyone knows - it's amazingly capable off-road, actually seats five full-size humans and casts a (huge) stylish shadow like no other. Now well into its sleeker fourth generation, it's ageing well and still holds its position as king of luxury SUVs, despite pretenders piling in from all corners.
I wasn't expecting to like the Range Rover. I knew I would respect it, but like? It turns out it's super-quiet, relaxed and, if you spend a few more bucks, has all the gadgets you need to manouevre it about and enjoy the ride, long or short.
Is the Range Rover still top of the pile? Tell us what you think in the comments.
The Audi SQ7 is fast, beautifully built, and dynamically outstanding. It’s also practical, flexible, and loaded with useful driver assistance, media and safety tech. Can an SUV costing north of $150k be considered good value for money? Yep.
Is the Audi SQ7 your performance SUV of choice? Let us know in the comments.
One of the extraordinary things about Land Rover and sister company Jaguar is the sheer consistency of the design teams over the past decade or so. The Range Rover is a hefty machine, and while it looks big, it does not look as overbearing as a car five metres long and over 180cm tall could.
No, it's not a lithe CX-9 approach, but it maintains the muscular Rangie look with the blacked-out pillars and floating roof and the now-signature laid-back grille and lights. And on our black car, the blacked-out gills on the front doors looked terrific - sometime the lighter-coloured versions look a bit cheap.
Inside is swathed in leather with wood or, if you prefer, metallic finishes. Everything looks and feels substantial. The new 10-inch screen looks a lot more modern than the older version, and it sits atop a redesigned centre console with the new HVAC controls. The old dials on the steering wheel have also been replaced with touch-sensitive dials with digital displays. It's a nice mix of traditional shapes with advanced tech.
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the SQ7 is large. At a little under 5.1m long, just shy of 2.0m wide and over 1.7m high, it’s a beefy bus.
But Audi has applied its cool, calm and collected design language to this expansive canvas, resulting in a neat, relatively conservative look that masks the car’s oversize proportions.
A huge version of Audi’s signature ‘single frame’ grille dominates the nose, with confident, straight character lines defining the bonnet shape and the top of the car’s flanks.
Another clue to the SQ7’s size is the fact the optional 21-inch rims fitted to our test example, sitting under gently flared arches, look (proportionally) smaller than the 16s fitted to a Mazda CX-3 Neo.
The rear broadens slightly, while the turret and glasshouse taper distinctly towards the back, and the simple rear end treatment echoes the other 'numbers' in Audi’s SUV line-up (Q3, Q5, and the soon-to-arrive Q8) - although the recently released compact Q2 breaks the mould with a chunkier, more geometric approach.
The interior is all class, with a beautifully finished, swooping dashtop rising over a compact instrument binnacle that houses Audi’s all-digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display. The only other interruption is the standard 8.3-inch high-res colour media screen rising proudly from the centre of the dash.
Air vents live inside a long section of horizontal lines across the face of the dash, and ‘our’ car had optional brushed metal and chrome-finish highlights underneath and across the broad centre console.
Standard ambient lighting adds subtle illumination to the centre console and door sill trims, with no less than 30 colours available.
Attention to detail in the look, feel and finish of the ‘Velcona’ leather-trimmed seats is hard to fault, and overall, it’s clear quality was a key driver here.
From the get-go, it's huge inside. There is lounging-room aplenty in the first and second rows, and rear seat occupants score their own set of climate controls.
Storage is everywhere, with two deep bins in the front and two front cupholders that slide away to reveal a space big enough for a beagle (okay, slight exaggeration). The rear also features two cupholders and each door will hold a bottle.
Boot space starts at a massive 639 litres and expands to 1943 litres with the rear seats down. There's a ton of space in the boot for things or a hefty dog.
No surprises here. There’s plenty of room inside, with heaps of breathing space for the driver and passenger, not to mention two big cupholders in the centre console, with a slot for the weighty key in-between them.
There’s also a decent glove box, a lidded storage box between the front seats, a couple of oddments trays (one covered) in the console and generous door bins with bottle holders in the doors. Connectivity is taken care of with USB and aux-in ports, as well as a 12-volt power socket.
Second-row passengers are also sorted, with ample leg and headroom. In fact, Audi claims more than a metre of space between the rear seat base and the headliner.
The centre seat is split 35/30/35, with each segment able to slide fore and aft to increase passenger and load space flexibility. Again, there are door bins with space for bottles, with other storage running to a flip-down centre armrest with twin cupholders (although they’re appreciably smaller than those in the front), and map pockets on the front seatbacks.
Standard four-zone climate control not only means there are air vents for centre row passengers (in the back of the centre console and the rear of the B-pillars), but individual temperature controls for each side of the car. Nice. Plus, there are two 12-volt power outlets back there, as well.
A simple fold-and-roll mechanism for the two outer centre-row seats minimises the acrobatic prowess required to gain access to the 50/50-split third row. As with most seven seaters, the way-back seat is tight for grown-ups but perfectly acceptable occasional accommodation for kids up to about year-nine size, with cupholders and oddments trays thrown in.
When it comes to load space, the SQ7 scores a big tick for its auto tailgate and the sheer volume of its cargo space. Even with the third-row seats upright there’s 235 litres of space available. Enough to hold the CarsGuide pram, with some room for soft bags left over.
Press the buttons on the wall of the load area and the back seats fold (electronically) to expand that number to 705 litres. More than enough to hold our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), and the pram.
With the second and third row lowered you will have a mega 1890 litres to play with; enough to open a small shop from which you might sell luggage and prams.
The addition of tie-down anchors, a small netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (complete with first-aid kit), yet another 12-volt socket, strategically placed shopping bag hooks and useful lighting push the practicality factor through the roof. The only snag is the lack of a spare wheel (of any description), a repair/inflator kit your only option in the event of a puncture.
Price and features
The Vogue TDV6 starts at a fairly hefty $190,000. You might think that's a lot of money for a seven-seat SUV - and you'd be right.
You do alright for your money, though. The list contains 20-inch alloys, climate control, keyless entry and start, a comprehensive safety package, twin-view front screen, dynamic dampers, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, digital dash, electric heated front seats, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, acoustic heated windscreen, heated rear seats, partial leather seats, head-up display, active air suspension, heated steering wheel, powered gesture-activated tailgate and a full-size spare.
The new 'InControl' system now pairs with an all-new 10-inch touchscreen, and it looks terrific. The system is finally making some inroads (sorry) into the German competitors' in-car multimedia dominance.
Obviously it has sat nav, but it also has DAB, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a TV tuner, app connectivity (iffy, if I'm honest), and various off-road based stuff. The 13-speaker stereo is a belter, but, frustratingly, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. JLR keeps saying "watch this space", and after Mazda recently proved me wrong, it's a claim I'll take a little more seriously.
The car I had for the week also had the 'Pixel Laser' LED lights ($6490), 22-inch gloss black wheels ($5110), sliding panoramic roof ($4420), adaptive cruise ($3600!), black exterior pack ($2730), 'Vision Assist Pack' (foglights, interior ambient lighting and around-view cameras; $2040), Park Pack (rear cross-traffic alert, and side parking sensors; $1280), laminated windows ($830), 'Drive Pack' (blind-spot monitor; $820), wade sensing ($600), ebony headlining ($680), and few extra bits taking us to a grand total of $222,440.
With cost-of-entry sitting at $155,511 (before on-road costs), the SQ7 lines up against five well established, performance-luxury SUV competitors at the ‘around $150k’ price point; namely the BMW X5 M50d ($144,990), a relative newcomer in the shape of the Maserati Levante Gransport ($159,990), the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe ($146,200), the recently renewed Porsche Cayenne S ($155,100), and the Range Rover Sport SD V8 HSE ($150,200).
So, it’s fair to expect a big basket of standard fruit, and the SQ7 doesn’t come up short.
Highlights include ‘Valcona’ leather upholstery (with S embossing on the front seat backrest), sport front seats (heated and electrically adjustable with electric lumbar support and memory for the driver), four-zone climate control air, ambient lighting, the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument display, rain-sensing wipers, a leather-covered sports steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and adaptive air suspension.
You’ll also pick up 20-inch alloy rims, Audi’s ‘Parking system plus’ (sensors front and rear with reversing camera), as well as a 360-degree camera (four wide-angle cameras covering the area immediately around the vehicle), a head-up display (in colour with speed, nav and assistance info), auto LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators.
And before you start scoffing at those ‘show-off’ scrolling indicators, it’s worth remembering their safety value. As you’ve possibly discovered, too, in misty or foggy conditions, knowing a car up ahead on the freeway is not only changing lanes, but which direction it’s heading in is a huge plus.
But we’re not done yet, the standard features column also includes ‘Audi connect’, including an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a Bose 3D Surround Sound System (19 speakers and a 15-channel 558 watt amp), DAB+ digital radio, and ‘MMI touch’ including nav through the 8.3-inch high-res touchscreen (3D maps, voice control and free text search including handwriting recognition).
Worth noting, though, our test example was loaded with an A3 Sportback’s worth of extras, namely ‘Matrix LED’ headlights - $2200, 21-inch Audi Sport alloys - $4000, the ‘Dynamic Package’ (quattro sport differential, all-wheel steering, electromechanical active-roll stabilisation) - $13,500, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System - $11,340, Inlays (alternate materials) - $3800, phone box light (wireless charging) - $500, red brake calipers - $950, and premium paint (‘Sepang Blue’) - $7950 (yee-ouch!).
All of that adds up to $44,200, bringing this example within a whisker of $200k.
Engine & trans
Being a Range Rover, it's obviously all-wheel drive with a centre differential for the rough stuff. The TDV6 designation tells us it has a 3.0-litre turbodiesel good for 190kW and 600Nm to shift its substantial frame, weighing in at 2249kg. The dash from 0-100km/h comes up in a surprisingly spritely eight seconds dead, and towing capacity is a muscular 3500kg for a braked trailer.
The SQ7 is powered by a 4.0-litre, double overhead cam, 90-degree, twin-turbo diesel V8 producing a maximum of 320kW (429hp) from 3750–5000rpm, and 900Nm across a broad plateau of just 1000rpm up to 3250rpm (perfectly placed for peak power to take over at 3750rpm).
Featuring common-rail, direct-injection and variable valve lift (on the exhaust side), the engine gets its added oomph from twin, sequential-charging turbos and an electric compressor (EPC) that acts like a supercharger to keep the turbos spooled up when they’re on low pressure, or completely off-boost.
It’s an amazing set-up that virtually eradicates turbo-lag, with Audi claiming the EPC can accelerate the turbos up to 70,000rpm in less than 250 milliseconds! The arrangement is powered by a 48-volt electrical sub-system delivering a peak output of up to 13kW.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Drive goes to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive with asymmetric torque split and self-locking centre diff. Default drive distribution is 40 front/60 rear, with up to 85 per cent able to go to the rear, and 70 per cent to the front axle as required.
Land Rover's official combined cycle figure for the Vogue is listed at 6.9L/100km, but in my week with the car doing largely suburban running about, with some highway mixed in, we didn't event get close, returning 12.3L/100km.
Even so, the huge 86-litre tank will ensure you won't have to visit the servo too often.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2 litres per 100 km, emitting 190g/km of CO2 in the process. They would be outstanding figures for a hefty, high-performance, seven-seat SUV.
Even with the help of the SQ7’s standard stop-start system, over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway driving we couldn’t match the claimed number, recording 11.3L/100km (at the bowser). And speaking of filling up, you’ll need 85 litres of diesel to brim the tank.
A Range Rover drives like no other car. It feels big, but with that upright driving position, it's oddly relaxing. Despite needing a little extra attention to keep the car in the lane, the view out over the flat bonnet is pretty unique.
The air suspension provides a plush ride, but can occasionally get itself into a bit of a heaving-sea movement - as it did along a particular road near where I live. The rest of the time it completely insulates you from the road.
Of course, if I'd had the bravery to tackle some serious off-roading, the air suspension can lift the car from its low-riding city stance to 22cm, meaning you can wade through 90cm of water, which is around half the car's height. The people down the road weren't keen on me testing it in their pool. Spoilsports.
You can't easily escape the fact it's exactly five metres long - it squeezes into parking spaces, and the big mirrors help, too. At least the height is rather more commonplace than it was a decade or so ago, so you're less likely to bang into low ceilings.
With every one of its 900Nm available from just 1000rpm, the SQ7 feels like an erupting volcano from step-off. Audi claims 0-100km/h in 4.9sec, and there’s no doubt it’s properly quick. No 2.4-tonne SUV has a right to accelerate this fast, and the mid-range thrust is formidable, too.
And when it comes to transferring that forward thrust into lateral grip, the SQ7 pulls off a better than passing impression of a much smaller, lighter, lower vehicle.
The electrically-assisted steering delivers satisfying road feel, and the standard air suspension (working in parallel with a five-link independent set-up front and rear) manages to combine excellent ride comfort with impressive body control (thanks in no small part to electromechanical active roll stabilisation) and cornering accuracy.
In ‘enthusiastic’ cornering, grip from the (optional) 21-inch 285/40 Continental ContiSportContact rubber is tenacious, without any discernible penalty in terms of noise or harshness at lower speeds.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles. It’s quick and smooth in auto mode, and shifts rapidly in the manual setting.
The front sports seats are as comfortable as they are grippy (how good are heated seats on cold mornings, by the way?), and the big ventilated brakes slow this big car calmly and progressively.
While it may not bother you, one thing I’m not a fan of is the sound actuator in the exhaust system. The SQ7 sounds gruff and grunty, more like a petrol V8, but that’s because the system is modifying the noises. It’s like (spoilers) learning Santa Clause isn’t real. Once you know, things are never the same.
The Vogue sports six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, rollover-stability control, hill-descent control, forward-collision warning, forward AEB, corner-braking control and trailer-sway control.
The Rangie scored a five star ANCAP safety rating in 2013.
As you’d expect, the SQ7 pulls out all stops on active safety tech, featuring ABS, EBD, ESC, ASR, as well as ‘Audi pre-sense city’ with Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection (detects impending collisions at up to 85 km/h), and ‘Attention assist’ (alert tone and visual signal if the system senses the driver’s attention may be lapsing).
There’s also an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function, side assist (including pre-sense rear), rear cross-traffic alert, active lane assist, and ‘Exit warning’ (detects cars and cyclists when opening doors and provides a visual warning to occupants).
Plus, you can expect the Parking system plus system, 'Park assist' (self-parking for parallel or perpendicular spaces), the 360-degree camera, and a head-up display.
But if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact, passive safety features include airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags (seat-mounted for front and rear passengers), head level curtain airbags (for front and rear passengers) and an active bonnet to minimise injuries in the event of a pedestrian collision.
The current (second-gen) Q7 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2015. And amazingly, top tether and ISOFIX child restraint anchor points are provided for all five seating positions in the centre and rear rows.
Range Rover offers a three-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist for the duration, which is now starting to look a bit skinny. The website assures me that not only does it cover the usual stuff, but you'll also be rescued if you're on four-wheel-drive only tracks, too.
You can cap your service prices with a service plan of up to five years/130,000km, and servicing is required every 12 months or 26,000km.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-km warranty (as well as roadside assist for the same period), which is starting to lag the market when even Ford and Holden are at five years/unlimited km now, without even thinking about Kia’s seven years and Tesla’s eight.
On the up-side, Audi also offers a three-year paint warranty, along with a 12-year rust perforation guarantee.
Maintenance is scheduled by the on-board service indicator (up to 12 months/15,000km), and a three-year/45,000km ‘Audi Service Plan’ fixed-price service plan is available for $1900.